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NEWS & UPDATES


If you're really into games, but really low on funds, maybe this can help! Join me as I take a look at all manner of games available for $10 or less!


VIDEOS


Nothing here yet! Check back later!

LOW BUDGET GAMING "Season 1"

My very first videos!...I apologize in advance...

LOW BUDGET GAMING #1 - The Last Express

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: August 7, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: In this, the premiere episode of "The Low Budget Gaming Show", I, Gemini, introduce you to a point-and-click mystery game from the man who brought you "Prince of Persia".

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #2 - Crusader: No Remorse

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: August 15, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Join me as I take you through an isometric shooter game set in a dystopian future...or, at least, I try to...if my character would stop jumping around the screen!!

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #3 - Out There Somewhere

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: August 22, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: A short video for a short game. In what has turned out to be more of an opinion piece than review/critique, I talk about both the MiniBoss puzzle-platformer "Out There Somewhere", and the usage of 8-Bit/retro graphics and music in games in general.

NEW THOUGHTS: (1/11/20) I don't know what prompted me to make this video in the style that I did. I do recall time was a factor for some reason, and thus I couldn't make a "play-a-bit-and-remark-at-the-end" style of video like the first two were, but beyond that I seemed to have a chip on my shoulder for no reason. For the record, I still think Out There Somewhere is not that good of a game, but it's not as terrible as I seem to recall making it out to be here.

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #4 - King's Quest (2015) Chapter One

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: August 29, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: "King's Quest" makes its return to our PCs after a 17 year absence. Join me as I find out if its worth the wait, and if it lives up to the previous games!

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #5 - Aquaria

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: September 5, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Another short and sweet one for you guys, this week. Is it possible to have a good Metroidvania game underwater? To find out, take a dive with me, as we explore the watery world of Aquaria!

NEW THOUGHTS: (1/11/20) I suppose it would be remiss of me if I didn't mention that this video was made before certain accusations came to light about Alec Holowka. Obviously, I don't condone the alleged behavior, and I did consider not re-uploading this video, but decided that it wouldn't be fair to the other developer on the game, Derek Yu. I still stand by my opinions of the game in and of itself, however; I greatly enjoyed my time with it, and I would still recommend it.

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #6 - Darkstar One

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: September 12, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: We journey to the stars for this episode to take a look at a 10-year-old space simulator from Ascaron.

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #7 - The 7th Guest

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: September 19, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Join me as I slowly work my way through a creepy mansion in a game that made me so frustrated I shamelessly namedropped two other YouTube gamers and started throwing callbacks to previous episodes all over the place!!

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #8 - Postal 2

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: September 26, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Still feeling the negative effects of playing "The 7th Guest", I rearrange my gaming calendar a little bit to play a controversial game that, if the trailers are anything to go by, promises to be good for a laugh and a good time in general. But is it?

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #9 - FTL

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: October 3, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Unfortunately, technical difficulties meant I couldn't do an episode on "Star Trek: Starfleet Command" like I had hoped, so I had to go with a backup, which, as it happens, is another starship sim. Was it the better choice? Like I'm going to tell you that in the description!! :-P

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #10 - A Game of Dwarves

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: October 10, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Nope, you're not seeing things. This episode actually clocks in at under 10 minutes! A few days ago, I saw some dude in the mall playing a game on his laptop that looked a bit like "Dungeon Keeper", but wasn't. It was in fact "A Game of Dwarves". So let's see if this game has anything on ol' Horny or not! Also, NEW COVER GRAPHIC DESIGN! Because there's only so many things I can Photoshop my hat onto!

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #11 - Luftrausers

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: October 17, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: (8/1/20) Apparently I forgot to include the description when I put this video onto Twitch so...this space for rent, I guess!

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #12 - Amazing Princess Sarah

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: October 24, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: This'll probably hold the record for longest episode title for a while, I imagine. As I struggle with yet another older game, for this week's Plan B, I introduce you to Sarah, a princess so amazing that not only can she not be bothered to move and attack at the same time (you know, like the commoners do), she can also apparently be dead AND alive at the same time!! Next week is "TERA"...at least I know THAT'S working properly for me...(rushes to check on "TERA" videos)

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #13 - TERA

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: October 31, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Happy Halloween, everyone! While you're stuffing your face with candy, have a look at the gorgeous fantasy world of Arborea in this very unrestrictive free-to-play MMORPG!

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #14 - Trove

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: November 28, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Fresh off of my very first Let's Play, I return to my original quest of finding you worthwhile gaming for little to no money. And after all this waiting, surely I'll have found a good game to play...right?

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #15 - Revenant

Unfortunately, this episode has become lost to time. I keep backups of all my videos just in case something happens to an upload. Somehow (and I still don't know how), the backup for Episode 15 glitched in such a way that nearly all the audio was removed, making the episode unwatchable. By the time I became aware of this, I had long since deleted all the assets used to make the episode, so I sadly couldn't remake it. If you're wondering what my thoughts are on the game, as I remember, it wasn't that good, and that's being kind. Hopefully someday I'll get around to re-reviewing it in text form.

LOW BUDGET GAMING #16 - Star Trek Starfleet Command

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: December 12, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: And you thought "Darkstar One" was complicated!...or maybe you didn't...who knows? I never said I was a Betazoid!

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #17 - Starship Titanic

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: December 19, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Today, we look at Starship Titanic, the last of the "Troublesome Trio", those three games which I wanted to record, but couldn't for technical reasons. The game was written by Douglas Adams but I resisted the temptation to toss in some Hitchhiker's Guide quotes...almost.

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #18 - Path of Exile

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: December 26, 2015

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: As we wrap up the year, I wrap up my experimental mini-series focusing on Free-to-Play games with a game which should look awfully familiar to Diablo fans.

Music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #19 - Septerra Core

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: January 16, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: You ever find yourself thinking there's something you haven't done in a long while, then you do that something, and you quickly realize why it's been a long while since you've done it? That's kinda how I felt with this game. On the bright side though, a brand spankin' new intro!! You like?

LOW BUDGET GAMING #20 - Labyronia

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: January 23, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: When David Bowie passed away, "Low Budget Gaming" was still in a hiatus, and I had already planned the game to play the week after that. So, I figure, what better way for a game reviewer to pay tribute to Mr. Bowie than to talk about a game all about labyrinths!

LOW BUDGET GAMING #21 - Contradiction

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: January 30, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: FMV games appear to have been making something of a resurgence over the past few years. Today, I investigate an entry from 2015, a murder mystery with, among its cast, A FREAKIN' BLAKE'S 7 ACTOR!!! (Yes, I realize probably no one got that...No, I don't care)

NEW THOUGHTS: (10/25/19) R.I.P. Paul Darrow

LOW BUDGET GAMING "Season 2"

I use quotation marks for "Seasons 1 & 2" since they weren't officially separated into Seasons at the time. Now that I'm making actual seasons starting with what I'm calling Season 3, I wanted to split the previous episodes at some point, so I decided to make Episode 22 the start of "Season 2", since that episode marked the debut of LBG's rating system, the "Wall O' Worthiness" (known then as the "Worthiness-O-Meter")


LOW BUDGET GAMING "Experimental Episodes"

Towards the end of "Season 2", production of LBG was growing increasingly erratic, and I felt bad about that, since I'd always considered Low Budget Gaming my "flagship show", so to speak. After all, it launched the channel. So I wanted to try to return to making episodes on a weekly basis, albeit only for a few months at a time since now I have many other activities splitting my time. But first, I wanted to see if I could do it at all. So, I made these three episodes, all within the span of three weeks.

LOW BUDGET GAMING #22 - Daikatana

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: February 13, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: A fan sends me a direct challenge: to play what is purported to be one of the worst video games in existence, and escape with my sanity intact. Well, I played the game. As for my sanity? Well, by the end of the episode, I came up with a whole new rating system for the show...so you be the judge!

LOW BUDGET GAMING #23 - JumpJet Rex

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: February 20, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Move over Princess Sarah, THIS now holds the record for longest episode title. Seeking a pick-me-up for the mental kick in the face that was Daikatana, I try out a game with a spacefaring dinosaur.

Pre-open music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #24 - Star Realms

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: February 28, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: On a tip from a friend, I decided to try out a deckbuilding game from White Wizard Games...and lost all knowledge of the word "productivity"...

"Needless Clarification" music by Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

LOW BUDGET GAMING #25 - Slipstream 5000

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: March 12, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: An innocent looking racing game from the '90s...but it is NOT so innocent! Rather, one of the worst racing games I've played, if not one of the worst games in general. It looked good at first, but I just can't find anything to like about it.

LOW BUDGET GAMING #26 - Qbeh-1: The Atlas Cube

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: March 26, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Still smarting a little bit from my experiences with Slipstream 5000, I stumble upon a puzzle platformer which may be just what I need to relax.

LOW BUDGET GAMING #27 - Gemini Rue

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: April 2, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: It's been a few weeks since I dabbled with a point-and-click adventure. So I dabbled with a point-and-click adventure. Here are my thoughts on the point-and-click adventure with which I dabbled. SHARE AND ENJOY!!!

LOW BUDGET GAMING #28 - Sid Meier's Pirates!

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: April 9, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: ARRGH! AHOY! SHIVER ME TIMBERS!..........POOP DECK! Sorry...I think I may have had too much rum...anyway, we set sail with a game from the maker of Civilization on this week's Low Budget adventure!

LOW BUDGET GAMING #29 - The Aquatic Adventure of the Last Human

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: June 4, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Almost 9 months since we did so with "Aquaria", we're diving into the deep again for an Aquatic Adventure from YCJY!

LOW BUDGET GAMING #30 - Song of the Deep

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: July 31, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Yes, "Song of the Deep" is over our price range. And, yes, I already reviewed another underwater Metroidvania last time. But, gosh dang it, it's my show and this game has gotten me curious, SO I'M BLOWING THE BUDGET!!

NEW THOUGHTS: (8/1/20) If I had it to do over again, I probably wouldn't have made this episode. Not because I wasn't happy with the quality of it, but because the more I think of it, the more I think I made it to try to desperately jump on a trend more than anything else, as the game looked promising and was brand new at the time. My thoughts in the video are genuine, I still loved the game, but I shouldn't have devoted an episode of LBG to it. If anything it would be the kind of game I'd cover in a text review now that I have a site to do it on!

LOW BUDGET GAMING #31 - Anachronox

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: December 3, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: CAUTION: This game might make you dizzy!

We've gone for a swim twice in a row now; I'd say it's time for a change, wouldn't you? And speaking of time, we have here a game that touches on that very theme: Anachronox!

Blaze Rhodon's Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/user/ArthurAdler1996

LOW BUDGET GAMING #32 - Inexistence

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: December 29, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: It started out as such an innocent looking platformer, too... Today, we're looking at "Inexistence".

LOW BUDGET GAMING #33 - Strife: Veteran Edition

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: February 7, 2017

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Who do you trust when everyone around you hears the voice of a mad god? It's time to look at "Strife: Veteran Edition", a digital re-release of a 1996 FPS-RPG!

LOW BUDGET GAMING #34 - The Last Express: Gold Edition (RE-VISIT)

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: March 5, 2017

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: All aboard!...again! The show has changed quite a bit since Episode 1, so, I thought I would take another look at the game that launched the channel, "The Last Express"!

LOW BUDGET GAMING #35 - Primordia

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: September 29, 2017

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: In the second episode of a trilogy of revisits, we once again take a look at a title from Wadjet Eye Games for the first time in about a year and a half!

LOW BUDGET GAMING #36 - Crusader: No Remorse (RE-VISIT)

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: May 18, 2018

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: True to my predictions in the last episode, it took me way longer than I wanted to get around to making this video, but at last we can come to the conclusion of the Trilogy of Revisits, as we take another look at "Crusader: No Remorse"!

LOW BUDGET GAMING #37 - (Super) Galaxy Ranger Luna (64)

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: August 18, 2018

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: (8/1/20) Yet another one where I forgot to include the description on Twitch.

LOW BUDGET GAMING #38 - King's Quest: Mask of Eternity (Part 1)

LOW BUDGET GAMING #38 - King's Quest: Mask of Eternity (Part 2)

LOW BUDGET GAMING #39 - Over My Dead Body (For You)

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: One of the lessons I hope to learn as I try to improve my videos over time is that not everything needs to be long to be good. Let's put this theory into practice with a short puzzle game.

LOW BUDGET GAMING #40 - Consortium

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: One of the lessons I hope to learn as I try to improve my videos over time is that not everything needs to be long to be good. Let's put this theory into practice with a short RPG...hang on, I could swear I wrote this before...

LOW BUDGET GAMING EX 1 - Kingpin: Life of Crime

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: September 2, 2019

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: This episode was produced as part of an experiment to determine the feasibility of returning to making "Low Budget Gaming" episodes at a rate of 1 per week. It doesn't officially belong to either of the previous "seasons" or the upcoming Season 3.

This is the story of a gangster named Assface, and two aspiring bakers named Biffo and Bob, and their struggle for happiness in a town full of criminals, killer rats, and utterly abysmal gameplay.

LOW BUDGET GAMING EX 2 - Sherlock Holmes: The (Secret/Case of the) Silver Earring

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: September 4, 2019

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: This episode was produced as part of an experiment to determine the feasibility of returning to making "Low Budget Gaming" episodes at a rate of 1 per week. It doesn't officially belong to either of the previous "seasons" or the upcoming Season 3.

Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson star (quite literally, if this game's end credits are anything to go by) in a murder mystery with about 37 different subtitles and nowhere near as many redeeming qualities.

LOW BUDGET GAMING EX 3 - Star Trek: Starfleet Academy

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: September 6, 2019

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: This episode was produced as part of an experiment to determine the feasibility of returning to making "Low Budget Gaming" episodes at a rate of 1 per week. It doesn't officially belong to either of the previous "seasons" or the upcoming Season 3.

After two highly negative reviews, surely we can turn things around with a visit to the tried and true universe of Star Trek, right?

LOW BUDGET GAMING Season 3


LOW BUDGET GAMING #41 - Astrologaster

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: October 23, 2020

Low Budget Gaming is back, with a look at a comedic Shakespearean narrative adventure, where the choices you make matter!...or do they?

---

Get "Astrologaster" on:
STEAM: https://store.steampowered.com/app/742520/Astrologaster/
ITCHIO: https://nyamyam.itch.io/astrologaster

---

"Minstrel Guild" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

"Sheep May Safely Graze - BWV 208" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

"Cello Suite #1 in G - Prelude" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

"The Oppressed" Eric Matyas

Tavern Loop One by Alexander Nakarada | https://www.serpentsoundstudios.com
Music promoted by https://www.free-stock-music.com
Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

LOW BUDGET GAMING #42 - Inexistence Rebirth

A few episodes ago, I reviewed Inexistence, a Metroidvania with - to say the least - some serious problems. Now a remake has been made, called Inexistence Rebirth, which does address some of the issues I had with the original game, but still ignores some that seriously needed fixing.

---

Get Inexistence Rebirth on:
STEAM: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1297390/Inexistence_Rebirth/
ITCHIO: https://jonathanbrassaud.itch.io/inexistence-rebirth

---

Inexistence OST:
Fawzi Allouache
https://soundcloud.com/flaneboster/sets/inexistence-soundtrack

LOW BUDGET GAMING #43 - Death Coming

Even Death needs a helping hand from time to time. We're here to oblige!

---

Get Death Coming on:
STEAM: https://store.steampowered.com/app/705120/Death_Coming/
EPIC: https://www.epicgames.com/store/en-US/product/death-coming/home

---

Background Music by:
ERIC MATYAS (soundimage.org)

LOW BUDGET GAMING #44 - Zork Nemesis

Zork Nemesis...the oddball of the Zork series, thanks to its darker nature. How does that affect the overall product?

---

Get Zork Nemesis on:
STEAM: https://store.steampowered.com/app/571060/ZorkNemesisTheForbiddenLands/
GOG: https://www.gog.com/game/zorknemesistheforbiddenlands

LOW BUDGET GAMING #45 - Devolver Bootleg

What do you get when Devolver Digital applies their own special brand of parody to themselves? You get this collection which is alright for the most part, albeit with a few missteps.

---

Get Devolver Bootleg on STEAM: https://store.steampowered.com/app/1066260/Devolver_Bootleg/

---

"Bit Quest"
"Bit Shift"
"Blip Stream"
"Blippy Trance"
"Digital Lemonade"
"Level Up"
"Overworld"
"Reformat"

Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

LOW BUDGET GAMING #46 - Fox n Forests

In the final episode of Season 3, we take a look at what could be a truly proper throwback to the SNES era!

---

Get Fox n Forests on Steam: https://store.steampowered.com/app/603400/FOXnFORESTS/

---

Fox n Forests OST
Filippo Beck Peccoz (https://fbpsound.bandcamp.com/album/fox-n-forests-ost)

"Hazy Darkness":
Eric Matyas (soundimage.org)

Sure, I do games, but I never specified what kind! Here, I take a look at old and obscure table top games.


VIDEOS


Nothing here yet! Check back later!

Board Game Obscura #1 - PROBE (1964)

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: July 17, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Join me in a new series as I take a trip through time to have a look at table top games from the past!

"Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G, Movement I (Allegro), BWV 1049" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Board Game Obscura #2 - TIME THE GAME (1983)

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: October 7, 2016

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: You ever look at an issue of Time Magazine and instantly think "Yup, that'll make a great board game"? Well, someone did, and here's the result!

"Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G, Movement I (Allegro), BWV 1049" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Board Game Obscura #3 - THE EMERGENCY! GAME (1973/4)

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: July 29, 2017

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: It's a game for classic board game fans and classic TV fans alike! The Emergency! Game by Milton-Bradley, based on a spin-off of a spin-off of Dragnet.

"Brandenburg Concerto No. 4 in G, Movement I (Allegro), BWV 1049" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Board Game Obscura #4 - SURVIVE! (1982)

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: February 10, 2018

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: What happens when the tile-based island of Settlers of Catan meets the sinking tiles of Forbidden Island?

Music by: Kevin McLeod
www.incompetech.com

Board Game Obscura #5 - BIG BUSINESS (1936)

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: October 31, 2018

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: I suppose, in a series about board games, a Monopoly-clone was bound to pop up eventually - we even sort of ventured into that territory already with Time. But that was more of a Monopoly/Trivial Pursuit hybrid. This one, however, is a straight up clone, and a very old one at that!

MUSIC BY:
Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com
Eric Matyas: www.soundimage.org

Board Game Obscura #6 - EUREKA (1988)

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: October 31, 2018

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Thar be GOLD in them there...er...cardboard chips!

MUSIC BY:
Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

Board Game Obscura #7 - CAREERS (1971)

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: March 8, 2020

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: It never ceases to amaze me what people think would be a good basis for a board game. Here, we have a game all about the job hunt!

MUSIC BY:
Kevin MacLeod: www.incompetech.com

Don't worry, no button mashing here! Each Quick Time Event is a review of multiple games that belong to a certain genre or fall under a particular theme.


VIDEOS


Nothing here yet! Check back later!

Quick Time Event #1 - PLATFORMERS

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: June 3, 2017

GAMES REVIEWED: Macbat 64, Camera Obscura, Kbyte, Commander Keen Complete Pack

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: It's the first episode of a brand spankin' new series! On each show I'll be giving several "mini-reviews" on games which fit a certain theme or genre. This episode's theme: Platformers!

"Bummin on Tremelo" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

"Digital Lemonade" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Quick Time Event #2 - FREE GAMES

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: September 4, 2017

GAMES REVIEWED: Heroine's Quest: The Herald of Ragnarok, Ley Lines, Khimera: Destroy All Monster Girls, Stargunner

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: No money? No problem! Or at least, so we hope! Let's take a look at some free games!

"Tech Live" Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com)
Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Quick Time Event #3 - TIME

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: March 31, 2018

GAMES REVIEWED: Chronology, Blades of Time, Tick Tock Isle, The Journeyman Project: Pegasus Prime

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: I'll smack the first person that says "wibbly wobbly timey wimey".

Quick Time Event #4 - MYST-LIKE

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: February 21, 2019

GAMES REVIEWED: The Xon Series, Odyssey, Catyph: The Kunci Experiment, Quern: Undying Thoughts, Rhem 1 SE

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: Which Myst clones best capture the spirit of the original? Let's find out!

Quick Time Event #5 - METROIDVANIAS

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: December 17, 2019

GAMES REVIEWED: Catsby, Timespinner, And All Would Cry Beware!, Alwa's Awakening, Redo!

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: After much backtracking and scrounging for health upgrades, I managed to cobble together a few Metroidvanias to review!

Quick Time Event #6 - NON-JRPG RPG MAKER GAMES

ORIGINAL UPLOAD: April 30, 2020

GAMES REVIEWED: A Long Road Home, Pegasus-5: Gone Astray, Learn Japanese to Survive! Kanji Combat, World's Dawn, Viviette

ORIGINAL DESCRIPTION: RPG Maker seems to have something of a stigma attached to it, mainly due to the buttload of copy-paste JRPGs out there that were spawned by it. So we're going to try and dispel that bad reputation by looking at RPG Maker games that *aren't* JRPGs!

Here, you'll find reviews for games that wouldn't fit under the criteria of the other three formats, as well as the occasional blog or vlog.


REVIEW - Book of Eos

What can you do in one month? 4 weeks? 30 days? Probably lots of things, when you think about it. Can you make a game? And not just any game, but a JRPG? Chances are, not many of you will have said "yes" to that. But Doug Hancox, aka "TestZero", did. And it wasn't even for a game jam. It was just to challenge himself. That game was...


DEVELOPER: Dragon's Layer Productions (TestZero)
PUBLISHER: Dragon's Layer Productions
RELEASED: March 15, 2019
RATING: -
AVAILABLE: Steam, Itch.io
PRICE: $2.99


I recently bought a super-mega bundle of games and software from Itch.io. While browsing through it to see what would catch my interest, I saw the logo for Book of Eos, and decided to click to see what it was about. The screenshots immediately told me it was an RPG Maker game using pre-made assets which, in itself, is not necessarily bad - games like Dawn's Light, Greyfox, and So...uh...a spaceship crashed in my yard also used nothing but stock assets, but were still highly enjoyable - but it still wasn't interesting enough for me to want to download it. Then, I read further into the game's description and noticed where the dev mentioned he challenged himself to make a game in one month and Book of Eos was the result (a not-so-subtle jab at the AAA game industry also didn't hurt), and so I decided to see what he came up with.


What you did there has been seen.


As mentioned before, all the assets (apart from the title screen background) are stock RPG Maker assets - understandable, given the time crunch - but like I've always said with RPG Maker games, having nothing but stock assets isn't necessarily a sign of a bad or lazily put together game, it all comes down to what you do with those assets. The premise of the plotline is fairly straightforward: it's your basic, average, cliched RPG story, but with one twist: you play as the monsters.


The Eos Four


While scavenging through corpses left behind from a recent battle near his home, an Imp named Ozymandias ("Ozzy" for short) finds an ancient book that tells of a fabled land called Eos, a kind of Promised Land for monsterkind, where they can live without fear of human persecution. Having had his fair share of nasty looks and ill treatment, Ozzy sets out to see if such a land truly exists, and is joined by his friends Thok the Orc and Poe the Aqualing, and a fourth character named Arthur (who I won't say too much about to avoid slight spoilers). From there, the story remains pretty damn solid, with a surprising amount of character development, some excellent humor, and there are even multiple endings.


Some of the books in the game can be read to offer bits of added lore, always a nice touch.


The rest of the game is a bit of a mixed bag, though not all of that is the game's fault, some of it's just down to my personal preferences. For instance, not a big fan of mazes, and many of the areas that aren't villages take the form of these. Now, I will admit some of the dungeons do some clever things (a certain pyramid comes to mind - let's just say be damn sure you really want to open those chests...), and although Ozzy is, for the most part, the only character you control outside of combat, there are plenty of chances for the others to utilize character-specific abilities to help you progress or find items. Still, it doesn't change the fact that you have to traverse some fairly complicated dungeon layouts to get to these parts, and I've never really had that much patience for mazes, but of course, you may feel differently.


My least favorite of all the dungeons


Same goes for the combat which, apart from boss battles, comes via random encounters. Personally, I've never really liked them, as I feel they take a bit of control away from the player by not allowing you to progress through the game at your own pace. My opinions aren't helped by a problem more specific to Book of Eos, that being the combat difficulty is a bit scattershot, to the point where there's not so much a difficulty curve as a difficulty squiggle. Case-in-point: slimes, what should be one of the easiest enemy types to beat in any RPG, yet early on within the first few minutes of the game I decided to run from any battle involving them simply to avoid the headache, as they can regenerate 30+ HP at a time while you're only slapping them for low single digits, assuming they don't evade your attacks. (Sure, you can use magic attacks to get better results, but that costs MP which you won't always have)


Slimes...the most powerful of all RPG enemies.......wait, what??


Overall, it's not a bad little game, with a decent amount of content - roughly 10 hours, possibly more depending on how much combat you take part in and how many of the endings you go after. Sure, it's got its problems, but what game doesn't? And while there were a couple of genuine concerns, like the map design and the difficulty level, many of the problems can be put down to limitations with RPG Maker or, again, personal preferences. And, lest we forget...ONE MONTH!! It's certainly a hell of a lot better than anything I could slap together in that time.


REVIEW - Verdant Skies

There's something to be said for a game where you can relax, turn your brain off, and not have to worry about doing anything. But when does a game cross that fine line between "not having to do anything" and "not having anything to do"? Let's find out as we take a look at...


DEVELOPER: Howling Moon Software
PUBLISHER: Howling Moon Software
RELEASED: February 12, 2018
RATING: -
AVAILABLE: Steam, Itch.io
PRICE: $19.99⁺⁺

⁺⁺My copy obtained through Itch.io super-bundle for $5


Until recently, if you asked for my opinion on farming sims, I'd have told you that while I didn't necessarily hate or dislike them, they weren't exactly my cup of tea either. I'd tried playing Harvest Moon on the SNES years ago, but it just didn't grab my interest. Then, in 2016 on a random whim, I decided to try a little indie game that had just been released called Stardew Valley, and it almost instantly clicked with me. Stardew quickly became a favorite of mine, and since then I've always kept an eye out for games which might match, or perhaps even better, the experience.

You probably know by now how much of a sci-fi fan I am, so naturally if you take a Stardew Valley-esque game and set it on an alien planet, you're gonna pique my interest. Thus, we gaze into Verdant Skies. Set in the future on the planet Viridis Primus, you play as a member of a group of pioneers attempting to colonize the planet.


Things certainly start off with a bang, with your character crash-landing on the planet.


Naturally, this being a farming sim there will be plenty of planting to partake in, but with a few key differences:

1) You don't buy seeds. Instead, you obtain them by scavenging through bird's nests scattered throughout the area (or, if you have the proper equipment, extracting them from the resultant crops).

2) As you may expect, you can only plant seeds in ground that has previously been tilled. However, only certain bits of land are able to be tilled, and these are in seemingly random points around the colony, with no apparent way to move them or create new areas.

3) The colony area (and I do realize that's the second time I've used the term "area" in a short space of time. It's deliberate; more on that later) is divided into three different biomes - Plains, Marsh, and Mountains - and certain seeds can only be grown in certain biomes, with some exceptions.


Plantable areas in each of the three biomes, with examples of the crops that can grow there.


Those exceptions come courtesy one of the major selling points of Verdant Skies: genetic splicing. Seeds are imbued with different traits, some good, like being able to grow anywhere or yielding double the harvest, some not so good, like needing more water. By using a genetic sequencer, you can splice two samples of a particular seed to try and imbue it with the traits you want.

Animals are handled in much the same fashion. Rather than buying and raising an animal you want from young to maturity, instead you find the animal you want roaming in the wild, obtain a genetic sample from it, and place that sample in an incubator. Once fully grown (which takes 2 in-game days), you place it in a pen and it will give you certain crafting materials, so long as you feed it first. Like the plants, animals have genetic traits, allowing you to splice and incubate the exact animal you want.


Tinkering with traits.


To give credit where it's due, Verdant Skies is one of the most inclusive games I've seen. Another of its selling points is the fact that its character creator doesn't require the player to select a gender. Plus, at least one of the other colonists has They/Them pronouns, and you can enter into polyamorous relationships with some of them (though others aren't so keen on the prospect, preferring to remain monogamous).

Perhaps the best improvement Verdant Skies makes on the farming sim formula is that there is no sleep deadline, i.e. you don't automatically pass out if you're not in bed by a certain time. You could, if you so wished, quite literally stay out working on the farm and gathering materials for days at a time, as long as you've got the food to keep your energy up, and as much as I love Stardew Valley and even World's Dawn, that's something which I felt was sorely missing from those games. It gives Skies a true sense of being able to relax, that Stardew and World's seemed just shy of mastering.

There are some downsides to all this bliss, however. Firstly, the area you're able to explore is not that big at all, and there's only the one. No separate areas for a village or beach or what have you. There are a couple of mines, but each consists of only one tiny cavern. Speaking of the mines, many of your crafting recipes require either rubies or sapphires, which you can only get (through random chance) by mining certain rocks, and even if you are lucky enough to get one of those gems, it takes a ridiculously long time for the rocks to respawn something to mine, which may or may not even be a gem. This means it takes forever and a day to build just about any major piece of machinery.


One of the only two mines in the game. Rocks with colored veins have harvestable minerals.


Finally, there's the relationship/family mechanic. Now, I should mention I have yet to play a farming sim with romancing options where it truly felt like I was making a connection with whoever I was dating, but that lack of connection is especially prevalent here in Verdant Skies. There's no gifts to give; instead, all you have to do to increase your prospective partner's affection is simply talk to them once a day. Once you fill their affection bar, you trigger a cutscene in which you grow closer with them, doing things like eating dinner together, dancing, etc., but the cutscenes always fade to black and skip over the interesting bits, so that all you see is essentially "Hey, thanks for coming, let's have dinner and talk for a while", fade to black, fade back, "Well, that was fun, kthx bye". Plus, if the event involves your partner inviting you over at a certain time, and you miss that time window, it doesn't matter, they'll still keep inviting you until you show up at the proper time, with no consequence whatsoever for standing them up. Once you're married, you can have a baby by literally clicking a button!! And not only can you get a divorce the same way, but you can then go right back to that partner and start dating again like nothing happened.


The pink ribbon indicates you've reached max affection for that character, the blue signifies having a child with them. If you're already dating someone who prefers a monogamous relationship, the highest affection level you can gain with anyone else is "good friends", shown by a green ribbon.


Verdant Skies is by no means a bad game. It certainly serves as a pleasant enough distraction if you're looking to de-stress and unwind. But there was so little to do, so little variety in the crops and animals - hell, there's only one season! (two if you count a 5-day Eclipse) - that I thought perhaps the game was in early access and I just didn't notice, but no, I double-checked its Steam and Itch.io pages and it is indeed a "full" game if that's even the right word to use here. And for a game with a $20 asking price, it left me wanting rather than satisfied. There are apparently mods available for the game, but I haven't taken a look at any yet, and somehow I doubt they would make all that much of a difference to the overall experience.

Gemini Does NOT Do Games

I think the time has come for me to be honest - not just with you, but with myself.

As I type this up, I have another week's worth of Let's Plays already uploaded to the XOTV channel, waiting for me to hit the publish button. And as the time for me to record another batch grows more and more near, a realization becomes ever clearer to me.

I just don't have it in me anymore.

Now, don't get me wrong; I don't regret starting Gemini Does Games. It was a fun idea at the beginning, I enjoyed it for most of the time, it kept me sane in a time when I desperately needed it, and through it I've met some of the closest friends I could hope for.

But, the fact remains that while I always said I never had expectations of "being the next Markiplier", I did start the channel in the hopes that it would provide me a source of income and freedom from the shitty day job that I held at the time. Well, I've given it a good 6 years and change at this point, and I've long since left that day job, but the "gaming content creation job" idea has, let's face it, not taken off all that well, and while individually I enjoy playing games, and editing videos, the grind of constantly putting them together against the pressure of trying to be successful is just not fun anymore.

If I'm honest (which, as we established at the beginning of this blog, I'm trying to be), I have more of a chance (however slim) at gaining some kind of income with the voice acting I do, plus I'm enjoying my other creative endeavors far more.

And so, it saddens me, yet at the same time relieves me slightly, to say "that's it". The week's worth of Let's Plays I mentioned will be published as planned, but after that, I'm hanging up my gaming content hat for the foreseeable future. Which is not necessarily to say you won't ever see me playing games again. Whether on Twitch or XOTV, I may still do the odd gaming stream as the mood strikes me, and it's not like I'll be cutting all ties with my gaming friends, but I'm not going to be treating the gaming content as "my job".

As I always like to say, things may change. Maybe I'll pick it up again at some point, although honestly I doubt it. Either way, the Gemini Does Everything brand will stick around; if nothing else it offers me more creative freedom. But for now at least, Gemini Does Games is no more.

I love you all, and thank you for your support over the years.

--Jason

COUNTRY: USA
NETWORK: GSN
HOST: Dylan Lane
AIRTIME: February 22, 2021 - Present
PRODUCTION COMPANY: Sony Pictures Television


Chain Reaction is the game where one word leads to another. And, here in America at least, it also seems to be the show that just won't die.

Game Show Network has revived the classic format (for the third time in a row, no less), and in this case it seems they're not just reviving the show in general, rather they're reviving a specific version of it - namely their first revival attempt from 2006, and almost everything from this version is identical to its '06 counterpart, even down to the host (so expect many comparisons).

I'll generally be breaking these game show reviews down to three specific components:

-SIGHTS & SOUNDS: this includes things like the set, theme song, sound effects, etc.

-HOSTING: Who's hosting, and how did they do?

-and finally GAMEPLAY: How the game works (or in some cases, doesn't work), what I might do differently, and other overall commentary.

So, that said, let's get started with...

Sights & Sounds

I mentioned at the top that this version of Chain Reaction feels like a straight-up revival of the 2006 version, and that becomes immediately apparent right from the opening seconds, with a nice little theme tune and opening animation not dissimilar to those from '06.

Then we get a view of the set. It's a GSN show from the late 2010s/2020s, therefore the set is small, and it's blue. That said, I don't hate it. There's more than enough yellow to break up the blue, doubly effective on the callback side of things, since the Blue/Yellow color scheme is one that I consider to be heavily associated with Chain Reaction, having been used on the show's original version from 1980 and, again, the '06 version.

As we get into more specific detail, I've always loved it when game shows put their logo somewhere on the set. I don't know what it is about that particular inclusion, but to me having the logo on set makes it feel more "complete", I guess. CR '21 ticks that box, with the logo visible in no less than 3, possibly 4~ places


~Here, in addition to the logos on the back wall and the floor, you can just see the edge of a logo Stage Right, which presumably means there's another one on the opposite side of the set. Why the two side logos are there is a mystery, since you barely see them throughout the show.


Chevron arrows seem to be a sub-motif with this set, with them being present not just on the back wall, drawing the eye nicely towards the main logo, but also in a slightly more subtle fashion with the contestant podia and floor backdrop (combined with their reflections on the floor). The only minor nitpick I would bring up is that this makes the host podium (a simple rounded rectangle) look just a bit out of place. I think a trapezoid would have worked better here, since its reflection would have made it into a hexagon, giving a more effective "outward flow" effect from the host to the outermost contestants.

One last detail to briefly mention and that's the logo on the floor, which seems to be projected from the ceiling. I bring it up as it'll also display the show's top prize, as well as the bonus round timer. Overall, it's a small set, but pleasant looking and perfectly functional.

Hosting

Dylan Lane returns as host of Chain Reaction, having first helmed the show back in '06, and I'll admit to expressing much surprise at seeing him return. GSN has had hosts return from previous shows before, but as hosts of new shows (Brooke Burns moving on from The Chase to Master Minds being a good example). It's incredibly rare, however, for them to revive a show AND bring back one of its hosts; the only other instance I can think of is Alfonso Ribeiro with Catch 21, another GSN show that's been revived recently...for some reason.


Dylan Lane is once again your host, minus a good deal of hair.


My initial reaction of Lane here is that his performance is much improved from his last go round which I seem to recall was a bit on the flat side, though I'm hesitant to commit to that just yet. Promos for the new version seem to show Lane as indeed being more animated, but as yet I've only seen the one episode of CR '21 that GSN posted on their YouTube channel, and it's tough to judge a performance from just one showing, plus it's been ages since I've seen the '06 version so I could just be misremembering.

As far as this show goes, Lane does a good job, keeping the flow of the game going at a nice, steady pace, and maintaining good control over the proceedings with a persona that's serious, but not without the occasional quip. He's starting to become a "name brand host", shall we say; the kind of host who, if a new game show came out and you heard they were hosting, you'd probably watch for them if nothing else.

Gameplay

Now we come to the flesh & spuds of just about any game show, the game. This marks the 5th iteration of Chain Reaction, and while each new version has brought its own tweaks or twists on the formula, the core gameplay principle hasn't changed all that much since 1980. It's all about completing word chains by linking one word to the next. In the beginning, the words were linked through common connections. Here's an example:


From 1980. You wrap a gift - mummies are also wrapped - archeologists find mummies - an archeologist would likely use a shovel - you also shovel snow - snow typically falls in December - Christmas is December 25th


Since 2006, however, chains have been more straightforward, typically consisting of interconnected two-word phrases. For instance:


This chain would be read as "Space Shuttle - Shuttle Bus - Bus Pass - Pass Judgment - Judgment Day"


Onto specifics and, again, it's almost completely identical to its '06 counterpart. Two teams of three compete against each other. CR '06 made it a point of pitting men vs women in what Lane outright called a "battle of the sexes" in the intro to every episode. The team composition is the same here in this episode of the '21 version, but the "battle of the sexes" tagline is gone and the teams have specific names, so I don't know if it's still deliberately the same or if this episode is just a coincidence.

In Round 1, the teams are shown a chain of six words (shortened from '06's seven-worders), with the top and bottom words revealed. The first member of one of the teams (determined by a pre-show coin toss) starts with control of the chain and can...THEORETICALLY...ask for a letter in either the topmost or bottommost mystery word. Once that letter is revealed, that team member tries to guess the word.


Here, the contestant can ask for a letter below "Wide" or a letter above "Alarm"


I stress "theoretically" since, much like the version this revival imitates, contestants will invariably just work their way from top to bottom, making the choice seem a bit pointless. Anyway, if the contestant guesses the word correctly, their team earns $100 and play passes to the next team member who, again, can ask for a letter from the next mystery word along either side of the chain. A wrong guess, however, passes control to the other team. Once the chain is completed, the team that filled in the final word has a chance at an extra $100 in the Speed Chain.

In the Speed Chain, the team is given a four-word chain, along with 7 seconds of thinking time. Once the time has elapsed, they give their answer. If it's right, they pocket another $100, but don't lose control for a wrong answer.


A Speed Chain in progress.


Rounds 2 and 3 are played in the same fashion, except the team that trails begins with control, and correct words in the main chain and guesses at the Speed Chain are worth $200 and $300 a pop, respectively.

Round 4 is known as the Betting Round. The teams now face a seven-word chain, and play again starts with the team that's trailing. Now, when a team member calls for a letter, they must also wager between $100-$500 of their current score. A correct guess of the word earns the wager, but an incorrect guess loses it, in addition to passing control to the other team.


This contestant has wagered $300 on the word below "Scared".


Play continues this way until there's one word left, at which point the max wager limit is upped to $1,000 (a new wrinkle specific to CR '21), and there's no Speed Chain at the end of the round either. The team with the higher score after the Betting Round chain is complete wins the game and goes on to the bonus round. No mention in this particular episode if the losing team keeps their winnings, but somehow I doubt it.

Chain Reaction is kind of unique in the annals of game show history, as it's a show that's had practically twice as many bonus round formats as it's had revivals, and it's here where the main difference between this version and '06 comes into play. Whereas '06 featured two different variations on the original show's bonus format (which itself went through two or three different changes of its own) of getting one team member to answer questions composed one word at a time by the other two, CR '21's bonus round fits much more within the spirit of the game in my opinion.

The winning team is given 60 seconds to tackle three chains consisting of 4, 5, and finally 6 words, again with the first and last words already revealed. The contestants call for letters in the missing words as before, with play passing to the next team member after each guess, right or wrong. The time starts when the first letter of each chain is called, and stops upon the completion of a chain. If the team can complete all three chains before the 60 seconds runs out, they win $10,000.


The bonus round in progress.


On the one hand, I roll my eyes at the $10,000 top prize, since it's basically a hallmark of almost any new GSN show, and I know prize money isn't everything in a game show - fun and entertainment are important factors as well - but $10K just seems so cheap these days, especially irksome here since it's getting divided amongst a team (a team of three, no less, which annoys me to no end, but that's a rant for another time). But on the other hand I must begrudgingly give credit where it's due, since here the $10K is an increase from the $5,000 top prize of the 2006 version and even the more recent 2015 version (the latter of which I've never seen, in case you've been wondering why I haven't mentioned it til now).

The team in GSN's CR '21 preview episode didn't win the top prize so I don't know if the $10K is added to their winnings, or if the money simply gets augmented to 10K as is more typical of GSN, though Dylan's tease into the pre-bonus commercial seemed to suggest the former.

My overall feelings are a bit mixed, and I find the show hard to recommend. It's a good game, well put together and excellently hosted. However, it's nothing all that exciting either; it's just decent. It's the kind of show that, if I was idly channel surfing and happened to land on it, I'd stop and watch a few minutes of it, rather than the kind that I'd go out of my way to regularly catch. Plus, with it being an average GSN show (not to mention, again, their third go at this particular format) it'll likely last a season, if that, then disappear back into obscurity.

MY THOUGHTS - This Is The Zodiac Speaking

You know what I hate even more than terrible games? Average games. “Why?”, you may ask, “Surely average is better than bad any day, right?” When it comes to playing them, that may be true, but from a reviewer’s perspective (hi there), they’re damned difficult to write about. You see, good games and bad games have one thing in common: no shortage of writing material. Whether the graphics are gorgeous or god-awful, whether the voice acting is Oscar-worthy or cringe-worthy, whether the story is beautifully written or bullshit at best, whether the gameplay is programming perfection or practically unplayable, at the very least I have something to write about. I can gush or gripe as the case may be to my heart’s content about the good and the bad, and the why and the how. But with average games? There’s only so much time I can spend and so many words I can use to describe something as “...eh, it’s alright, I guess” before I feel like I’m repeating myself. In fact, you may have already guessed that the reason this opening paragraph is so long is a cheap attempt by me to try to stretch things out as long as possible. Oh, well...enough padding. Here’s the game.


DEVELOPER: Punch Punk Games
PUBLISHER: Klabater
RELEASED: October 15, 2020
RATING: -
AVAILABLE: Steam
PRICE: $12.99⁺⁺

⁺⁺My copy obtained free.


Full disclosure, I got my copy of the game free via a giveaway held during the premiere viewing of an indie animated series called The West Patch (if you haven’t seen it, rectify that immediately!)

This Is The Zodiac Speaking is a sort of mystery puzzle game based on the real life case of a serial killer known as the “Zodiac Killer”. It also has stealth elements involving avoiding detection by “Zodiac” as you make your way to key areas, but the stealth sections can be avoided depending on which game mode you play.

You play a journalist named Robert Hartnell who, as far as I can tell has no relation to William of Doctor Who fame or, more importantly, the Zodiac case; he’s a fictional character, though things do get somewhat confusing as one of the cases in the game involves a Brian Hartnell, who actually was one of “Zodiac”’s victims (for the sake of avoiding confusion, when I use the name “Hartnell” from here on, I’m referring to Robert, the main character).

As an investigative journalist, Hartnell has been covering the Zodiac killings for some time, trying to crack “Zodiac”’s infamous cipher and find out who the killer really is, much to the detriment of his own personal life. A package sent to his house via a co-worker draws Hartnell out to a park in the middle of the night where he has a run-in with “Zodiac” who, for some reason, spares Hartnell.


If only I were better at the Daily Times Jr. Cryptograms!


The game jumps to six months later, and Hartnell has been seeing a therapist due to having recurring dreams involving “Zodiac” and some of his victims. Each case essentially consists of three phases. In the first, Hartnell explores his house to find items which somehow connect to one of the Zodiac killings. In the second phase, Hartnell goes to the therapist’s office and, through a process the doctor refers to as “live dreaming” (I’m not familiar enough with psychology and/or psychiatry to know if that’s an actual thing), he visits the crime scene and tries to piece together the events of the case using the clues he noted from his house. Finally, as part of some ritual again prescribed by the therapist, Hartnell puts together a mannequin representing that case’s murdered victim and “puts them to rest” with one of a number of items pertaining to the case. Multiple endings are present, depending on how successful you are in mentally closing each case, so thorough exploration is a must.


Sleep tight, fair wooden dummy, we hardly knew ye.


Several things about the game either annoy me, or just plain make no sense to me, my confusion about the concept of “live dreaming” notwithstanding. For one thing, when exactly is this game supposed to take place? Ostensibly it’s during the early ‘70s, but there are newspaper articles you can collect which appear to be from the ‘90s - I think one even makes reference to as late as 2019.

Entries in your journal are handwritten, but with toggleable voice reading as well, which would be good considering the small, light-gray-on-beige text is very hard to read...but the reading differs so much from what’s actually written, with the actor sometimes saying whole phrases that aren’t anywhere in the text. Such was the disparity between the two that I gave up keeping track of the journal entries very early into my playthrough.

Why exactly is Hartnell haunted by these particular cases? I’m pretty sure no explanation was given in game, though, as stated above, the journal’s wonkiness turned me off of reading it, so it’s possible I missed something.


Sadly, Hartnell would later learn that "My therapist made me dream about it" was not, in fact, admissible as evidence.


Zodiac Speaking has stealth sections (mainly set during the “live dreams”) where you must avoid letting “Zodiac” see you and (presumably) kill you. These can be avoided if you play on Story Mode as I did, allowing you to concentrate solely on figuring out each case, but no matter which mode you play, you have a stamina meter to deal with and, as is typical for games of this type, running makes your stamina drain quicker than you can say “Hang on a sec, I’m out of breath”.

At certain points the game will present you with a choice to make, be it a photo during some of the therapy sessions which supposedly determines your next dream, a dialogue choice (annoyingly with Mass Effect style options, i.e.: briefly worded and potentially misleading), or an action to take. None of these choices matter one bit, as evidenced by a monologue making reference to Hartnell doing something I, in fact, did not do, as well as a playthrough video on YouTube which, when compared with my own run, shows that the photos in the therapy session have no bearing on what dream you have.


"Now, Mr. Hartnell, I want you to relax, choose one of these photos which may as well be blank for all the difference they make to the gameplay, and count backwards from 10."


I honestly don’t know what to think of This Is The Zodiac Speaking. It wasn’t bad - if I had to give it credit for something, having a mode specifically devoted to going through the story without worrying about stealth is absolutely a good idea - but it wasn’t all that great either, marred primarily by confusion in multiple aspects. And as I stated at the top of this blog, if I try to qualify those statements, I’ll only end up repeating myself, so instead I’ll close with this…

...eh, it’s alright, I guess.

P.S.: Further proving my point about the overall “meh”-ness, it just occurred to me I haven’t even said anything about the graphics. Uh…...they exist...and they are graphical. There, all done. So, uh...how’s your day?

MY THOUGHTS - Myst (2021)

Yes, yes, I can hear your eyes rolling from here. Cyan's done gone and remade Myst AGAIN! Yes, they remade it from the ground up for VR this time, but surely they could have just tweaked one of the realMyst games for that, right? As huge of a Myst fan as I am, when I first heard about this remake, even my first reaction was to raise a metaphorical eyebrow and ask "...ok why though?" It wasn't even a major anniversary. Even realMyst (the original anyway) had a raison d'être, serving as a makeshift test run for the development of the online spin-off URU. It all just smacks of being a cheap and needless cash grab meant to tug on our nostalgia...

...but god damn if they haven't gone and captured my heart all over again.


DEVELOPER: Cyan Worlds Inc.
PUBLISHER: Cyan Worlds Inc.
RELEASED: August 26, 2021
RATING: Everyone
AVAILABLE: Steam
PRICE: $29.99


I've made no secret of my love for the Myst series (well, 4/5 of it anyway). And it's true that I've played the original so many times I know the puzzles like the back of my hand. But, I'll wager you can quote all the lines from your favorite movie at the drop of a hat, but that still wouldn't stop you from watching it for the 37th time. Plus, since it was a complete remake for VR (though I played the "flatscreen" PC version), and not just a port, I wanted to see just how different this new version of Myst was from all that came before.

And I'm so glad I did.

The first thing you notice is just how completely and utterly gorgeous the Ages of Myst are in their new incarnations, with different weather effects for each age, little details that add so much dimension to them (see below), and just an overall photorealistic beauty very much on par with Riven and Exile. I may not have been playing in VR, but it still genuinely felt like I was really there in that rocket, on the deck of the ship, crossing the treetop bridges. It's no exaggeration when I say I was on the verge of tears the whole time I was exploring.


There's oil in the water around the rotation mechanism in Mechanical, Stoneship has an absolutely gorgeous sunset as its backdrop, a dense fog now permeates Channelwood, its water covered in lily pads, while Selenitic is looking...a hell of a lot more blue than I remember...


That said, a couple of things do hamper the illusion slightly. Whenever anything makes a huge splash in a body of water (such as when you're raising a bridge), the splash effects, when compared with the rest of the world, almost look more like transparent PNGs of splashes rather than actual water. The biggest thing that takes away from the aesthetic though is the appearance of Atrus and his sons...or more specifically, their appearance as CG models, and while they're not the worst models ever made, they're certainly nowhere near as detailed as the world they inhabit, either. Plus, if, like me, you had no idea beforehand that there were even CG models present to begin with and you were expecting FMV sequences (even if re-used from one of the older versions of Myst) the first time you see one of them can be a bit unsettling. Thankfully, however, speaking of the older FMVs, there is an option to swap between them and the CG models.


A couple of examples of the CG models vs. their FMV counterparts. Honestly it's a bit of a toss-up; at least the FMVs are less uncanny valley-esque.


Sadly, the Age of Rime is nowhere to be found, its absence made even more conspicuous by the appearance of a very clear pathway leading to the spot where you would normally enter it. Sure, it was only a minor Age from the realMyst remakes that only served to add a bit of extra lore, but it still would have been nice to see it, if only for a possible peek at what Riven could look like given the same face-lift.

The music in Myst '21 is as perfect as it ever was. I couldn't tell if it was a re-orchestration or not, but if it was it was so very close to the original as to not be noticeable. Sound effects, however, are a different story. All the sounds in the game have been replaced with more realistic effects, with the exception of the Linking Book sound, which is still as iconic as ever.

The voice acting is a slight letdown, though. The brothers Miller return as Atrus and his sons, both in the FMVs and with re-recorded lines for the CG models, and while Robyn's performance as Sirrus seems about the same as his previous appearances, Rand's take on Atrus just seems phoned in, made all the more puzzling when you consider his Achenar is just about as crazy and unhinged as ever.


In one of the more drastic aesthetic changes, the Dentist Chair of Doom in the Observatory appears to have been bifurcated.


Now on to the gameplay. The puzzles remain largely unchanged from their original counterparts, with minor differences here and there, no doubt to allow for more immersion in VR, such as a knob to twist on the map in the library, a podium with dials rather than a box with valves for the clock tower, and so on. But there are a couple of major differences.

First, you're no longer limited to carrying one page at a time, and that's across ALL Ages, not just each one. You could, if you so desired (and, in fact, I did) go through all four Ages, picking up the red AND blue pages from each one, before revisiting the brothers' books in the library.


YOU WANT PAGES?? FINE, HERE'S YOUR STINKIN' PAGES!!


Secondly, when I did a wrap-up video after playing through the entire mainline Myst series, one of the things I noted (as, indeed, did many others) was the fact that some of the puzzles, mostly those associated with the Selenitic Age, revolved around sound, meaning if you were hearing-impaired, you were quite possibly screwed. That, however, has FINALLY been fixed in Myst '21, with a toggleable option for "Context Sensitive Subtitles". When activated, anything that plays a sound that you would need to take note of will now display a subtitle describing that sound.


Not sure if you can tell, but pipe water is, indeed, flowing.


The only other major change to talk about is the inclusion of the new "Puzzle Randomization" feature. Starting a new game gives you the choice of two types of puzzle: "Classic", i.e. how they were in the original game, and "Randomized". Don't get carried away, though. Despite how it might sound, the Randomized option does not suddenly turn Myst into a rogue-like, you will not be riding the Mazerunner in the Stoneship Age. Instead, it simply changes the solutions to each puzzle like, for example, the number of volts you'd need to power the rocket to Selenitic. The only Age that's pretty much unaffected is Channelwood, with the exception of one thing, and since I don't know how to mark spoilers here on Carrd, let's just say if you've played Myst before, then we're on the same page.

Overall, even if you've already played a previous version of Myst, even if you don't have a VR set, I would HIGHLY recommend giving this new iteration a try. I ended the aforementioned wrap-up video giving my rankings of the Myst games. The original (bearing in mind this was well before Myst '21 was even announced, and I played the original Masterpiece Edition) ranked 3rd for me, with the top spot, after spending quite a few years in my mind tied with Riven, eventually going to Exile. But I'd say this version puts the original far closer to the top, perhaps even in a tie for second. Regardless, in this humble Myst fan's opinion anyway, it is the DEFINITIVE way to experience the original surrealistic adventure that will become your world.

...at least for the next few years until they inevitably find a reason to remake it YET AGAIN!!! (seriously, where's the love for Riven??)

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